On the Road with CAS President: Participating in University of California Santa Barbara’s Actuarial Day

Read about CAS President Brian Brown’s visit to University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) to participate in their annual Actuarial Day event.

University of California Santa Barbara’s Actuarial DayI had the pleasure to speak at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Actuarial Day on Friday April 20th. UCSB is one of the 7 schools that has won the CAS University Award, recognizing them as a leader in educating property and casualty actuaries.

I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the students and the faculty. I had lunch with a number of the student officers of the actuarial club and they, in addition to having great analytic skills, had excellent communication skills. They asked a lot of great questions.

The UCSB actuarial program was started in 1989 by Professor Raya Feldman.  It is not surprising that UCSB won an award from the CAS given the quality of the faculty. The current faculty consists of three very well-known and respected actuaries:

  1. Roger Hayne,  FCAS – Roger is currently VP of International for the CAS and is a past CAS President;
  2. Janet Duncan, FCAS – Before joining the faculty, Janet held several senior positions with major insurers; and
  3. Ian Duncan, FIA – Ian has had a very successful career and one of his papers will be published in the upcoming edition of Variance.

There are also many other talented actuarial science faculty members at UCSB.

University of California Santa Barbara’s Actuarial DayAs I mentioned, I had lunch with a number of the officers of the actuarial club. It is always very interesting to meet talented people. In addition to pursuing her actuarial career and being treasurer of the actuarial club at UCSB, Sukanya Joshi also is part of a competitive dance team. She practices three times a week on the UCSB Bollywood Fusion Dance Team. The day after my talk she was dancing for charity, to raise money for the Akshaya Patra Foundation – the world’s largest school lunch program, which aims to end child hunger.The event was very successful. Congratulations, Sukanya.

I also met Permoon Hussaini; she is the incoming President of the UCSB actuarial club and is interning at Mercer this summer. Permoon is from Saudi Arabia but grew up with people from Asia, Europe and the Middle East. She felt that the exposure to different cultures helped her to better engage and interact with people.

After lunch, I spoke to all of the actuarial students. UCSB is an impressive program with 297 students. The students were very engaged and I received a number of great questions. One student said she loved math and wondered whether she could still use her math skills as she advanced in her career. I assured her that she will always be able to use her analytic skills.

University of California Santa Barbara’s Actuarial DayThe students were very interested in my discussion on telematics and predictive analytics. Also, Eric Weibel, President of Zendrive, was in the audience as an alumnus. Zendrive for years has collected individual driving information (speed, miles driven etc.) via a smart phone. Zendrive among other things uses this information to derive a driving score based on various variables (e.g. distracted driving, speed, hard braking etc.) to predict a driver’s likelihood of having an accident. Zendrive recently reached a billion miles of data.

I also met with UCSB’s Advisory Board. UCSB meets with alumni and others working in the industry to discuss new trends and areas where they can improve their actuarial science program. This is certainly a best practice and I learned a lot from the discussion. A couple items that were discussed included:

  1. UCSB is offering a very hands-on class with a lot of one-on-one interaction between the students and faculty in predictive analytics. The students are given real world data and have to program in R, Python or SAS to solve the problem and write up the results. This is a great class that will prepare the students for various jobs;
  2. Ian Duncan is doing research with the students and that has led to 4 papers being published.
  3. Raya said that she is encouraging students to develop their communication skills. In addition to writing and public speaking classes, she is also encouraging students to take theater classes. I think that this is wonderful, as employers are demanding candidates with great technical and communication skills.

I feel fortunate to have attended the UCSB Actuarial Day. USCB has a great group of students and a very intelligent and committed faculty. Thank you.

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